Using a DFS Mindset for Your March Madness Bracket – Part II

Brad Richter

Growing up, I was always intrigued with stats, from the back of baseball, football and basketball cards to playing dice rolling simulation games, while tracking the stats for the players on my team. My fantasy sports obsession began in college running fantasy football leagues with friends and has expanded into playing in both fantasy baseball and fantasy basketball leagues, and most recently Daily Fantasy Sports. I consider myself a “stats guy” by nature and lean on data to back up my advice and analysis of strategy techniques and player evaluations. That said, I have also always felt that sometimes you must go with a gut instinct based on things you have seen watching players play, even when the numbers don’t back it up. I feel that it is this mix of analysis that leads to the most successful formula when competing in fantasy sports.

Welcome to Part II of my “Using a DFS mindset for your March Madness bracket” series. If you haven’t read Part I, I strongly suggest you do so to get the theory behind the picks. Hours of preparation went into this article pulling numbers from various websites that I referenced in Part 1. In additional to pulling Vegas lines for the Round of 64, I have also pulled projected (“Proj”) win percentages from FiveThirtyEight, KenPom and ThePowerRank. I have also pulled “Who Picked Whom” (“Own”) data from both ESPN and Yahoo. All of this data has been averaged and put into the grids you will see at the top of each region.

Following the grids will be my pick recommendations for an “Office Pool” sized (50-250 entries) pool for the first two round and then some suggestions on teams to consider to carry into the Final 4 depending on how contrarian you need/want to be depending on your pool size. What I am looking for is where the biggest gaps are between the “Proj” win percentage for each round compared to the “Own” picked percentage by the public. When the gap is large is when we have an opportunity to make a smart contrarian pick. Well, that is enough time setting the stage, let’s dance!

2017 March Madness Picks

East

Rd 64 Rd 32 Rd 16 Rd 8 Rd 4 Title
Seed Team Vegas Proj Own Proj Own Proj Own Proj Own Proj Own Proj Own
1 Villanova TBD 98.4% 98.2% 76.5% 89.7% 53.2% 79.5% 36.5% 45.3% 20.4% 29.2% 13.1% 15.3%
16 Mount St. Mary 0.8% 1.8% 0.0% 0.8% 0.0% 0.5% 0.0% 0.4% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%
16 New Orleans 1.2% 1.8% 0.1% 0.8% 0.0% 0.5% 0.0% 0.4% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%
8 Wisconsin -5 73.0% 68.9% 19.5% 6.7% 9.0% 3.9% 4.2% 1.4% 1.6% 0.7% 0.4% 0.4%
9 Virginia Tech 27.0% 31.1% 3.8% 2.3% 0.9% 1.0% 0.3% 0.4% 0.0% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1%
5 Virginia -7.5 82.3% 78.0% 46.3% 41.3% 18.5% 6.3% 10.1% 2.1% 4.5% 0.9% 2.1% 0.4%
12 UNC-Wilmington 17.7% 22.0% 4.2% 6.6% 0.4% 0.6% 0.1% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%
4 Florida -10 86.0% 84.6% 46.4% 47.5% 17.4% 7.5% 9.1% 2.6% 3.5% 1.1% 1.8% 0.5%
13 East Tenn St. 14.0% 15.4% 2.8% 3.7% 0.3% 0.5% 0.1% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%
6 SMU TBD 79.4% 81.8% 42.8% 36.4% 21.4% 8.2% 8.2% 1.9% 3.3% 0.6% 1.7% 0.3%
11 Providence 12.1% 18.3% 3.4% 3.3% 0.9% 0.6% 0.1% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%
11 USC 9.4% 18.3% 2.7% 3.3% 0.7% 0.6% 0.1% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%
3 Baylor -12.5 89.0% 90.4% 49.7% 57.0% 25.5% 14.9% 10.0% 4.7% 4.0% 1.9% 1.8% 0.6%
14 New Mexico St. 11.0% 9.7% 1.7% 2.3% 0.2% 0.5% 0.0% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%
7 South Carolina -1.5 49.7% 42.0% 13.4% 3.4% 4.6% 1.2% 1.0% 0.4% 0.2% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1%
10 Marquette 50.3% 58.0% 14.5% 4.3% 4.9% 1.6% 1.0% 0.4% 0.2% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1%
2 Duke -19 94.8% 96.8% 71.5% 90.6% 41.9% 72.1% 18.6% 39.6% 8.1% 26.4% 4.3% 12.6%
15 Troy 5.2% 3.2% 0.7% 1.1% 0.1% 0.7% 0.0% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%

Round of 64:

Picks: Villanova, Wisconsin, Virginia, Florida, SMU, Baylor, South Carolina, Duke

Large Pool Considerations: None

  • Going with all the higher seeds.
  • Only the selection of South Carolina is going against the public with the Gamecocks as a small favorite and the projections calling the game a coin flip, give me the team that is lower owned.

Round of 32:

Picks: Villanova, Virginia, SMU, Duke

Large Pool Considerations: Wisconsin, South Carolina

  • Villanova is selected 13.2% more than their projection which is a nice gap to consider picking Wisconsin but even the projection gives Villanova a 4x better chance of beating Wisconsin (76.5% to 19.5%) so it is not worth taking the chance except in a larger pool.
  • Virginia and Florida are almost dead even in the projections but Florida is being selected by 6% more entries, so give me the lower owned Virginia.
  • SMU has a 6% better chance of advancing than the public think, while Baylor has a 7% less chance of advancing.
  • Duke is selected 19.1% more than their projection with is a big gap to consider picking South Carolina but Duke is still over 5x more likely to advance (71.5% to 13.4%) so only consider the upset in very large pools.

Round of 16:

Picks: Villanova, Duke

Large Pool Considerations: SMU over Duke

  • Villanova is selected 26.3% more than their projection in this round but the gap narrows in the next round between their projection and ownership percentages and they are still almost three times more likely to beat Virginia.
  • Duke is a candidate to lose in this round as both SMU (or Baylor) both have a higher projected win percentage than the public thinks, while Duke has a projected win percentage over 30% less than the public. In small to medium sized pools, stick with Duke but picking against Duke in this round in larger pools is a viable strategy.

Round of 8 (Advance to Final 4)

Pick: Villanova

Contrarian: SMU or Baylor

Fade: Duke

  • As mentioned in the last round, Villanova narrows the gap between projected win percentage (36.5%) and ownership (45.3%) and is almost 2x more likely to beat Duke and 3-4x more likely to beat everyone else.

West

Rd 64 Rd 32 Rd 16 Rd 8 Rd 4 Title
Seed Team Vegas Proj Own Proj Own Proj Own Proj Own Proj Own Proj Own
1 Gonzaga -22.5 98.7% 96.7% 86.8% 88.2% 62.5% 62.8% 47.8% 35.3% 31.3% 15.2% 22.0% 8.5%
16 South Dakota St. 1.3% 3.4% 0.1% 1.1% 0.0% 0.6% 0.0% 0.4% 0.0% 0.3% 0.0% 0.1%
8 Northwestern 46.6% 49.4% 5.9% 5.0% 1.7% 1.7% 0.4% 0.6% 0.1% 0.2% 0.0% 0.2%
9 Vanderbilt -1 53.4% 50.6% 7.2% 4.8% 2.2% 1.5% 0.8% 0.5% 0.1% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1%
5 Notre Dame -7 77.0% 83.0% 27.2% 47.2% 7.0% 17.1% 3.4% 5.5% 1.1% 1.5% 0.3% 0.6%
12 Princeton 23.0% 17.0% 4.5% 4.1% 0.4% 0.8% 0.1% 0.3% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%
4 West Virginia -14 91.1% 88.9% 66.2% 45.3% 25.7% 14.4% 16.6% 5.3% 8.6% 1.7% 4.9% 0.7%
13 Bucknell 8.9% 11.2% 2.4% 2.3% 0.1% 0.5% 0.0% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%
6 Maryland -2 50.1% 56.8% 16.3% 19.8% 4.8% 4.3% 0.5% 1.3% 0.1% 0.4% 0.0% 0.2%
11 Xavier 49.9% 43.2% 16.6% 14.0% 4.9% 2.7% 0.6% 0.7% 0.2% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1%
3 Florida St. -12 88.8% 82.7% 64.0% 58.7% 31.2% 15.4% 9.1% 5.8% 3.3% 1.6% 1.5% 0.6%
14 Florida Gulf Coast 11.2% 17.3% 3.2% 6.4% 0.3% 0.9% 0.0% 0.3% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%
7 St. Mary’s -4 71.3% 54.4% 35.3% 6.9% 21.7% 3.4% 8.1% 0.9% 3.4% 0.3% 1.5% 0.1%
10 VCU 28.7% 45.7% 8.9% 3.6% 3.5% 1.3% 0.3% 0.4% 0.1% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1%
2 Arizona -16.5 94.6% 96.1% 55.5% 87.2% 33.3% 70.9% 10.9% 42.3% 4.8% 16.5% 2.2% 7.0%
15 North Dakota 5.4% 4.0% 0.3% 1.4% 0.0% 0.7% 0.0% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%

Round of 64:

Picks: Gonzaga, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Xavier, Florida St., St. Mary’s, Arizona

Large Pool Considerations: Princeton

  • Two lower seeds (#9 Vanderbilt and #11 Xavier)
  • Vanderbilt is a small favorite and has a higher projection (53.4%) than ownership (50.6%)
  • Xavier is almost even with Maryland but Maryland is being selected 56.8% by the public so go with the lower owned Xavier
  • Princeton isn’t a great bet but if you are looking for another upset, it would be the next most likely

Round of 32

Picks: Gonzaga, West Virginia, Florida St., St. Mary’s

Large Pool Considerations: None

  • Gonzaga’s projection and ownership are both high, so don’t get cute
  • West Virginia is actually a slightly contrarian pick as Notre Dame is being selected by the public more often. However, West Virginia has a significantly higher projected win percentage to Notre Dame (66.2% to 27.2%).
  • Both Florida St. and Xavier have higher projections than ownership but Florida St. is almost 4x more likely to advance so go with Florida St.
  • Arizona is one of the most overrated teams in the tournament according to the projection systems. The public picked Arizona over 30% more than their projected win percentage, while St. Mary’s projection is almost 30% more than their ownership. St. Mary’s with the upset.

Round of 16

Picks: Gonzaga, St. Mary’s

Large Pool Considerations: West Virginia

  • West Virginia has a strong chance to beat Gonzaga and if they do they will also have a good chance to advance to the Final 4. Sticking with Gonzaga in small to medium sized pools since their projection still falls in line with their ownership this round and has a favorable projection in the next round compared to their ownership.
  • Tough call between Florida St. and St. Mary’s but since the public picks Florida St. 12% more often than St. Mary’s which is a bigger gap than their projected win percentage, I will continue to go with the underdog St. Mary’s.

Round of 8 (Advance to Final 4)

Pick: Gonzaga

Contrarian: West Virginia (St. Mary’s could be an option in a very large pool)

Fade: Arizona

  • As mentioned in the last round, Gonzaga has a higher projected chance to reach the Final 4 than the public thinks, making them a strong pick no matter who they face on the other side of the bracket.
  • If you want to be more contrarian than West Virginia is the only other team, I would strongly consider coming out of the West with St. Mary’s as a longshot option.

Midwest

Rd 64 Rd 32 Rd 16 Rd 8 Rd 4 Title
Seed Team Vegas Proj Own Proj Own Proj Own Proj Own Proj Own Proj Own
1 Kansas TBD 97.0% 97.3% 77.3% 88.7% 49.1% 76.3% 30.6% 54.5% 16.4% 26.6% 7.2% 13.0%
16 NC Central 2.2% 2.8% 0.3% 0.9% 0.0% 0.6% 0.0% 0.4% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%
16 UC Davis 0.7% 2.8% 0.0% 0.9% 0.0% 0.6% 0.0% 0.4% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%
8 Miami -2 53.6% 45.1% 12.7% 3.6% 4.4% 1.8% 1.7% 0.7% 0.3% 0.2% 0.1% 0.2%
9 Michigan St. 46.5% 55.0% 9.7% 5.8% 3.1% 3.2% 0.9% 1.3% 0.2% 0.6% 0.0% 0.3%
5 Iowa St. -6 80.1% 77.8% 42.2% 41.0% 19.3% 8.3% 9.9% 3.2% 4.4% 0.8% 1.7% 0.4%
12 Nevada 19.9% 22.2% 5.2% 5.8% 0.9% 0.7% 0.2% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%
4 Purdue -9 84.2% 85.8% 48.7% 48.3% 22.5% 8.0% 11.8% 3.3% 5.4% 1.0% 2.0% 15.3%
13 Vermont 15.8% 14.2% 4.2% 3.6% 0.7% 0.6% 0.1% 0.3% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%
6 Creighton -1 61.8% 60.2% 25.8% 14.3% 9.6% 3.2% 3.6% 0.8% 1.2% 0.2% 0.2% 0.1%
11 Rhode Island 38.2% 39.9% 12.3% 10.0% 3.6% 1.5% 0.9% 0.4% 0.2% 5.1% 0.0% 0.1%
3 Oregon -15 92.0% 93.0% 60.4% 72.8% 26.5% 30.6% 11.7% 10.9% 5.1% 3.3% 1.8% 1.4%
14 Iona 8.0% 7.0% 1.2% 1.7% 0.1% 0.4% 0.0% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0%
7 Michigan -2.5 55.1% 74.4% 21.6% 23.8% 11.8% 13.7% 4.7% 4.7% 1.9% 1.7% 0.4% 1.0%
10 Oklahoma St. 44.9% 25.6% 16.1% 4.0% 8.4% 1.6% 3.4% 0.5% 1.1% 0.2% 0.4% 0.1%
2 Louisville -20 96.1% 95.8% 62.0% 69.9% 40.3% 47.6% 20.7% 18.3% 10.5% 5.7% 4.4% 2.4%
15 Jacksonville St. 3.9% 4.3% 0.3% 1.1% 0.0% 0.7% 0.0% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%

Round of 64:

Picks: Kansas, Miami, Iowa St., Purdue, Rhode Island, Oregon, Oklahoma St., Louisville

Large Pool Considerations: None

  • Two lower seeds (#10 Oklahoma St. and #11 Rhode Island)
  • Miami is also a contrarian selection with Michigan St. being selected more often by the public even though they are the underdog in Vegas and has a lower projected win percentage.
  • Creighton’s projection and ownership fall in line with each other but with the Vegas line only favoring Creighton by one point lead me to side with Rhode Island.
  • While Michigan is a slight favorite and has a higher projection, their ownership far exceeds their projection by almost 20%, making Oklahoma St. a strong contrarian selection

Round of 32

Picks: Kansas, Purdue, Oregon, Louisville

Large Pool Considerations: None

  • Chalky round with all the four highest seed advancing
  • Purdue versus Iowa St. is the only game that could go either way but with Purdue as a slight favorite and the projection matching the ownership, I’ll go with the favorite.

Round of 16

Picks: Purdue, Louisville

Large Pool Considerations: Oregon

  • Purdue has a 14.5% better chance to advance than the public thinks while Kansas has a 27.2% lower chance to advance.
  • Louisville and Oregon are both selected more frequently than their opportunity to advance but Louisville has a stronger opportunity to continue to win beyond this round.

Round of 8 (Advance to Final 4)

Pick: Louisville

Contrarian: Purdue

Fade: Kansas

  • Louisville has almost 2x the likelihood to advance to the Final 4 than any other team in the region outside of Kansas. Kansas is only projected with a 10% higher win rate but is 36% more owned, making Louisville a smart contrarian option.

South

Rd 64 Rd 32 Rd 16 Rd 8 Rd 4 Title
Seed Team Vegas Proj Own Proj Own Proj Own Proj Own Proj Own Proj Own
1 North Carolina -27 98.3% 96.7% 81.4% 92.6% 59.1% 83.1% 34.0% 43.5% 19.7% 26.2% 9.1% 14.9%
16 Texas Southern 1.7% 3.3% 0.1% 1.0% 0.0% 0.6% 0.0% 0.4% 0.0% 0.3% 0.0% 0.1%
8 Arkansas -1 51.9% 48.6% 9.8% 2.6% 4.2% 1.3% 1.3% 0.4% 0.2% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1%
9 Seton Hall 48.1% 51.4% 8.7% 2.7% 3.6% 1.2% 0.8% 0.4% 0.1% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1%
5 Minnesota 54.3% 57.8% 20.6% 19.4% 5.3% 2.2% 1.5% 0.7% 0.3% 0.3% 0.1% 0.2%
12 Middle Tenn -1 45.7% 42.2% 15.8% 13.6% 3.9% 1.2% 1.0% 0.4% 0.2% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1%
4 Butler -11 89.1% 90.2% 60.7% 63.3% 23.5% 9.3% 9.9% 2.9% 4.1% 1.2% 1.3% 0.5%
13 Winthrop 10.9% 9.9% 2.5% 2.4% 0.1% 0.5% 0.0% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%
6 Cincinnati TBD 63.5% 78.8% 29.2% 12.6% 11.4% 3.2% 5.1% 1.0% 2.1% 10.3% 0.5% 0.2%
11 Kansas State 19.0% 21.3% 6.7% 2.1% 2.0% 0.5% 0.4% 0.2% 0.1% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%
11 Wake Forest 17.2% 21.3% 5.9% 2.1% 1.7% 0.5% 0.3% 0.2% 0.1% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%
3 UCLA -18 94.0% 94.7% 57.5% 82.5% 22.9% 45.4% 10.6% 25.5% 5.1% 16.0% 1.8% 8.6%
14 Kent St. 6.0% 5.3% 0.4% 1.5% 0.0% 0.4% 0.0% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%
7 Dayton 26.5% 33.6% 5.8% 3.2% 2.1% 1.0% 0.7% 0.4% 0.1% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1%
10 Wichita St. -6 73.5% 66.5% 30.9% 11.4% 18.4% 3.7% 9.5% 1.4% 4.9% 0.6% 2.1% 0.3%
2 Kentucky -20 96.8% 96.4% 62.7% 83.2% 41.5% 44.4% 24.4% 22.1% 14.0% 13.4% 6.2% 7.2%
15 Northern Kentucky 3.2% 3.7% 0.2% 1.1% 0.0% 5.6% 0.0% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%

Round of 64:

Picks: North Carolina, Arkansas, Middle Tennessee St., Butler, Cincinnati, UCLA, Wichita St., Kentucky

Large Pool Considerations: Kansas St./Wake Forest

  • Two lower seeds (#10 Wichita St. and #12 Middle Tennessee St.)
  • Arkansas is being selected less often by the public than Seton Hall despite Arkansas being a small favorite and with a higher projection.
  • Wichita St. is being selected more often than Dayton but their projection is still 7% higher making them a strong pick.
  • Middle Tennessee St. is a small favorite while Minnesota is being selected more over 3% more often than their projection.

Round of 32:

Picks: North Carolina, Butler, Cincinnati, Kentucky

Large Pool Considerations: Wichita St.

  • North Carolina is selected 11.2% more than their projection but are over 8x more likely to advance than Arkansas
  • Butler’s projected win rate is close to their ownership in this round and they are about 4x more likely to advance than Middle Tennessee St.
  • UCLA is being selected 25% more than their projection while Cincinnati’s projected win rate is 16.6% higher than the public thinks making Cincinnati a smart contrarian option
  • Wichita St. will be the most difficult matchup for Kentucky before the Elite 8. While Kentucky’s projection is over 15% lower than their ownership and Wichita St has a projection 19.5% higher than their ownership, Kentucky sets up well beyond this round so I’ll give them the win. In large pools, give Wichita St. strong consideration.

Round of 16:

Picks: North Carolina, Kentucky

Large Pool Consideration: Butler

  • North Carolina has an ownership 24% higher than their projection making them a candidate to pick against with Butler who has a projection 14.2% higher than their ownership. However, in small to medium sized pools, North Carolina is still 2.5x more likely to advance, making Butler an option in only large pools.
  • Kentucky’s ownership and projection get closer after getting past Wichita St. They are also almost 4x more likely to advance than Cincinnati.

Round of 8 (Advance to Final 4)

Pick: Kentucky

Contrarian: Wichita St.

Fade: UCLA

  • Kentucky’s projection exceeds their ownership by 2.3% which is remarkable for a school with so much basketball tradition. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s ownership is 9.5% higher than their projection which makes Kentucky the better value pick to reach the Final 4.

Final 4

East: Villanova (Proj: 20.4% / Own: 29.2%) vs. West: Gonzaga (Proj: 31.3% / Own: 15.2%)

Midwest: Louisville (Proj: 10.5% / Own: 5.7%) vs. South: Kentucky (Proj: 14.0% / Own: 13.4%)

Picks: Gonzaga, Kentucky

  • Gonzaga has by far the highest projection to advance to the Title game with a 16.1% higher projection than ownership.
  • Louisville has a strong projection compared to their ownership but Kentucky has a 3.5% higher likelihood to advance to the Title game.

Championship

Gonzaga (Proj: 22.0% / Own: 8.5%) vs. Kentucky (Proj: 6.2% / Own: 7.2%)

Pick: Gonzaga

  • Both teams are viable picks to use in medium sized pools as they both have lower ownership percentages than numerous teams. Going by the projections, though, Gonzaga is the strongest team to pick in the tournament and could finally cut down the nets after a long run of NCAA tournament appearances.

Large Pool Considerations: West Virginia, Louisville

I hope you enjoyed my March Madness writeups and that they opened your mind to a different way of thinking about your how to fill out your bracket. If you have any feedback or want to let me know if my advice helped you finish in the money in your pool hit me up on Twitter @Rotopilot.

Let’s hope we all have “One Shining Moment”!

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Brad Richter

Growing up, I was always intrigued with stats, from the back of baseball, football and basketball cards to playing dice rolling simulation games, while tracking the stats for the players on my team. My fantasy sports obsession began in college running fantasy football leagues with friends and has expanded into playing in both fantasy baseball and fantasy basketball leagues, and most recently Daily Fantasy Sports. I consider myself a “stats guy” by nature and lean on data to back up my advice and analysis of strategy techniques and player evaluations. That said, I have also always felt that sometimes you must go with a gut instinct based on things you have seen watching players play, even when the numbers don’t back it up. I feel that it is this mix of analysis that leads to the most successful formula when competing in fantasy sports.

Brad Richter

Growing up, I was always intrigued with stats, from the back of baseball, football and basketball cards to playing dice rolling simulation games, while tracking the stats for the players on my team. My fantasy sports obsession began in college running fantasy football leagues with friends and has expanded into playing in both fantasy baseball and fantasy basketball leagues, and most recently Daily Fantasy Sports. I consider myself a “stats guy” by nature and lean on data to back up my advice and analysis of strategy techniques and player evaluations. That said, I have also always felt that sometimes you must go with a gut instinct based on things you have seen watching players play, even when the numbers don’t back it up. I feel that it is this mix of analysis that leads to the most successful formula when competing in fantasy sports.

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